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Meet Susan Chodakiewitz of Booksicals in Beverly Hills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Chodakiewitz.

Susan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started out writing and composing and producing musical theater. One day I was browsing in the “grown-up” section of the bookstore researching some material for a musical I was writing and the book — Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market — caught my eye. Though it was unrelated to what I was looking for I got a flash – I NEED THIS BOOK. I bought the book and lovingly cradled it home.

I got home and the pressure to get to work on music, re-writes and lyrics for my upcoming staged reading overwhelmed me. I shelved the book and forgot about it… for about five years.

My Ah Ha moment arrived one day in 2005 while writing a children’s musical based on a picture book. The option for the book ran out and I was not able to renegotiate it. A little voice inside that had remained perfectly quiet until now suddenly called out to me… “It’s time!” I, of course, ran to my bookshelf and realized my 1999 version of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market was way out of date. I ordered a new copy and started my journey into the world of writing children’s books.

I’ve been writing children’s books for the last ten years. The concept for BOOKSICALS was born as I was struggling to find a way to integrate both my passion for the theater and my passion for illustrated children’s books. Booksicals just came to me one morning as I awoke from sleep… a perfect blend of both of my talents and arts experience. So from writing musical theater to writing children’s picture books and NOW to writing PICTURE BOOK MUSICALS for children, schools and arts enrichment feels like a very natural transition.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
For me, the biggest challenge as both a children’s author and creator of musical theater was deciding to open my own publishing company. Would I spend my days researching publishers, editors, agents and pitch my work, or would I spend my time creating my work with the help of freelance editors and art directors and create my own company with the freedom to own the theatrical, musical, animation and curriculum rights, etc. After some soul searching, I realized that my strength is my entrepreneurial spirit. I realized I thrive as a self- starter. This led me down the path of my own publishing company. It gets overwhelming sometimes knowing that I play many roles: artist, project manager, talent recruiter and marketing manager, but it is exhilarating working with talented freelance editors, illustrators, dancers, choreographers, music producers, and art designer who bring my vision to life. I learn so much from each collaboration and I am very open to the ideas of the fellow artists I work with. Each booksical is an evolving piece and when it’s finished, it feels no longer mine by a work of many talented people. The hardest part of the path I took is the business and marketing end. That part of a project NEVER ENDS. The creative work ends at some point. But the business end is ongoing and forever changing with the times, technology and social media. I would say that is the biggest challenge.

Please tell us about Booksicals.
I serve an important need for teachers, parents, schools, drama programs by providing teachers/educators with an easy way to incorporate the arts and social-emotional learning into their curriculum.

Booksicals works great for in school, home school, and now with COVID 19, for the virtual classroom.

As a child, storytime was always the favorite part of my school day. Remembering this and knowing how much children LOVE to listen to stories, I help teachers transform storytime into an interactive, social emotional creative arts learning experience.

Each booksical is a stand along beloved picture book that also comes as a musical eBook. The Arts Enrichment program that I launched in 2020 provides digital arts enrichment kits for K-6 grade. It includes a book, music tracks, lyric sheets, play scripts, instructional dance videos and musical videos.

The curriculum guide is so easy to use and is designed to incorporate SEL, writing, singing, dancing, and drama units for each picture book.

Helping students learn to express themselves, get moving, explore imagination and learn empathy through role play is the goal of Booksicals. Helping teachers accomplish this in an exciting and EASY is my mission.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I am not a big fan of the word luck. I think luck follows vision, passion and persistence. I might say I got a “lucky break” when I met the CEO of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and through our meeting a great collaboration came about to create a children’s booksicals for the company. That led to an international campaign for the book. However, this “streak of luck” really started several years prior, when I had a strong feeling that I wanted to write a book for children about tea. I would go to the coffee bean and pitch ideas in my head about how I would do this. I knew something would come of it… just wasn’t sure how and when. So when I had the opportunity to meet the CEO at a new year’s party, I knew it was “meant to be” and I dared to pitch him on the spot. It turned out he was looking for a project like a children’s book for their 5oth anniversary, a gift to the children of the world…. so is that luck? Perseverance? The universe talking to you? Call it what you want… but you have to believe in what you are doing. I have a lot of passion for what I do as so when I talk about it, my passion is contagious. In that respect, I feel blessed. Some people may call that luck.

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